The U.S. government followed its first execution in over 17 years in July with eleven more before the end of the Trump administration on Jan. 20. The latest execution of Dustin Higgs is just the 16th federal execution in the last 57 years but the 12th so far this year. Many called for the stay of the execution of Higgs, along with the previous executions of Lisa Montgomery and Brandon Bernard just days before. Legal experts and criminal justice advocates have criticized the quick schedule of executions over the last several months, citing a disruption of due deliberation and the overall ethics and bias of the federal death penalty in the U.S.
Before the Bush administration resumed federal executions in 2001, the last execution in the U.S. took place in 1963. After just the third execution in 2003, the federal government put executions on hold despite a majority of Americans favoring the death penalty in at least some cases.
President Trump has long been a strong proponent of the death penalty, and along with Attorney General Bill Barr, the administration planned to execute as many death row inmates as allowed before President-elect Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.
Famously, Trump called for the executions of the Central Park Five in 1989 even after the group were proven to have been falsely accused of aggravated assault and rape.
Nationally, there are roughly 2,500 inmates on death row facing execution. Most reside in legal limbo, with states where the death penalty is legal grappling with the lengthy appeals process or struggling to find lethal injection drugs. Texas leads the country in executions, averaging roughly 10 each year, however only five states have executed a death row inmate this year. With seven state executions in 2020, the federal government's latest execution puts them ahead of all states with ten this year.
The U.S. federal government has no plans to execute any more death row inmates before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. Federal executions are predicted to stop throughout Biden's term.